Putting the Bustard in it’s place #greatbustard

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The Bustard sculpture is now practically finished… I could probably sand and sand and re plaster indefinitely, but I’ve decided to see how it looks in the space.

Taking it up the stairs is helped by it being light and still in two pieces.

I know the area I’ve been given and have a few options as to which orientation it could be.


On the right, it’s a good size in the space.


I borrowed a leftover label from the (now shut) BA show to place on the base to represent the label reproduction from the Norwich Museum…


I want visitors to lean into the sculpture to try and read the label, thereby triggering the animated projection which will cross the wall…

Looking at the space, I’m wondering if it’s possible to animate over one wall and around the corner to fill the walls a little more…plus now I see the sculpture in the space I realise it’s not going to take long to cover the one wall I originally thought of, purely because I’m working life-size…


This is what you could see on approach as they are building a wall on the left and another to the right, which the plinth represents…


So would people just peek in, or would they come into the space. They would need to come through the space to reach the other installation, which makes a bit of a path through ‘my’ area, but I need it triggered.


on the left



wpid-dsc_0029.jpgThis side could make people look around the edge wall and then just move on, I can obviously mark up the mat with ‘step on me’ or similar, but it would be nice if it was a bit more unexpected and natural.

I need to know whether I’m getting a false flat wall put in on either existing wall, or if I have to deal with the sockets and radiator and door with glass window in.

The space left behind from the right hand side new walls makes a lovely corner space, with handy plug sockets for my Augmented reality plinth, but totally bisected because of foot traffic through it…


On the other hand, plenty of the spaces I saw on the BA show you had to walk through, so maybe I shouldn’t worry.

I could maybe ask for the entrance to the 2nd installation to be at the other end, but that would leave a scarily big space!

The one thing I definitely do not notice when it is place inside the space, are any lump, bumps or plaster imperfections, that I have been a little obsessed with working with it close up in the 3D workshop.

It’s decided, no more sanding, move onto the next bit…




Great Bustard sculpture, looking good

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Update on the ongoing sculpture, just the sanding to go and it’s making a real difference.






Before and after of the sides.

Sanding takes the lumps out beautifully.





Looking at the model on his legs and I am still thinking about whether to snip the long ‘h’ support bar down, or to dig into the sculpture underneath so that the support bar doesn’t show at all..

When viewed from my height it’s fine, but if you look underneath or are just a bit shorter you can see the metal prongs…

It’s balanced very well, is still light enough and looks great, I can’t wait to put it in situ and test some projection onto it.

Tail End #greatbustard #sculpture

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I know I only have a half day in the workshop to day so decide to focus on getting the tail covered and as smooth as possible, unlike the head which is disappointing.

After the success of the back of the bird yesterday I work harder and with more water into the dipped area which would be the space between the feathers on a real bustard but is more like a gentle dip on my sculpture.

It takes such a long time, but the results do come and I work a few strips from the centre to the outside with the forethought that when I move onto the outer tail feathers I will bring the strips over the top and on top of these.

It takes a lot of modroc just to do the inner dip and I have to buy another kilogram for me to continue onto the sides.


I work methodically along the tail, doing two sections at a time and cutting the modroc to the right size, this works really well and I get a lovely smooth finish on the feather sections, if only I could have achieved this over the head!


Eventually the tail is completely covered and looking good.




I cannot resist putting the body onto the legs and having an overall visual check.


It’s looking better and better all the time, it still seems to balance well and of course will dry and lose a little more weight, although the wings are yet to be plastered.
As the workshop shuts at 12.30 on a Friday I need to jiggle work to get myself two more half days, hoping to finish the sides in half a day each.

At this point I decide it will be best if the sculpture stays in two pieces until the week before the show, I might even see if I can manufacture it in two parts that perfectly fit together so that it can be easily transported after my show as well.


This birds got legs aka the Bustard stands again…

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Day 3 in the workshop carving my bustard sculpture as I arrive in the morning, the first thing to check is how well the pieces have stuck together… Unfortunately it looks like the glue really hasn’t had time to set overnight, on the main body and where the head and tail attach…I can’t afford to lose anytime at all just sitting around waiting for the glue to go off, so I strap up the body with a belt and decide not to touch the head or tail for as long as possible.


I use the big saw sparingly as it vibrates the whole structure, and instead use my trusty Japanese rasp, which is a beautifully constructed thing…


I work steadily through the sides to bring them in a little as my Bustard was looking too round past the widest point.


I quite like the rough marks left by the edge of the rasp, almost imitating feather edges.

I start to work on the head, gingerly and then I get a big shock as the head join comes apart and the head almost flips back on itself… this is not what I need to happen at this point, I can’t make glue dry quicker!

Making sure I am even more gentle and keep even pressure on the top of the head, I carry on, dreading that happening again.


I manage to get a good Great Bustard head shape carved, they have quite angular features and no more scary flip top heads, but it’s the glue, it’s still not dried!


After lunch I move onto the tail, I know full well this is still a wet join as the two parts were sliding a bit and I had to turn it back round as the middle was not matching up with the centre piece on the tail, but gently and slowly work my way round the outside.

wpid-dsc_0163.jpgit’s looking quite good, I’ve trimmed the sides, shaped the head, managed to smooth the tail and get the shape right, but I’d like to cut into the tailpiece, rather than have it solid. I decide to cocktail stick the two parts together in the hope it might help and start to cut into the very centre of the tail.

In a real birds tail like this it would only be a couple of feathers thick, obviously working with this polystyrene I cannot make it that thin, it will just tear or break, so I try to mimic the outer shape at least to give a hint of the real tail.


And that’s about it for carving.

I have thoroughly enjoyed it and have now found a reason to have big shoulders…carving! The best work out for your upper arms you’ll ever have, 3 days solid of sawing, cutting, pressing and rasping.

But no time to stop and admire my handiwork, I need to get the steel armature done so I can start scrimming the shape with plaster tomorrow.


Using a giant set of bolt croppers I cut my steel to length, for both legs, the 3 toes and the base platform to affix it too.



Jim welds the base for me and we tack the legs on and then put the sculpture on top of the steel for the first time, it looks great, it actually transforms it!


I am really pleased with how it looks, I’m just completely knackered! With me in the picture you can see for the first time, just how big the sculpture is when standing. It measures at just over the 105cm mark, but the feet and the base probably take up that extra 5cm, so it’s all good…

So I can get going straight away on the plaster work, I need to get a mesh onto the base, so the plaster has something to sit on, and my Bustard has something to stand on.


Chicken wire does a grand job, even though I get scratched to heck and bleed over my metalwork,  we add on the cradle at the top and another strut on each leg in anticipation of the extra weight the plaster will bring and I manage to get it all attached in time… But then I remember we haven’t put the toes for the feet on…


I know what the first job tomorrow is going to be!



Bustard Making – a day of 3 halves

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The pieces of the Bustard that I glued yesterday have had varying results… The larger body pieces are still mostly wet and don’t seem too rigid, ie, the glue has not set on such a large set of layers.. However the head pieces are pretty solid, I guess it’s just the size of the body section that has prevented it from drying fully.

I leave them in the hope that a couple more hours will help and set about outlining the shape for the tail section. I need 6 layers to achieve the maximum width of 30cm.


I wasn’t sure how accurate I was going to be with a bread knife to carefully sculpt my wing tip shapes, but after the first one, it was clear I wouldn’t need the hot wire, the knife was doing a grand job, as long as I came at the curved bit from both angles it exceeded my expectation.


I quickly glue them together with a bit cocktail stick trickery to pin them in place, then turn to the biggest shape to sculpt.



I thought it would be best to start on the body, as it’s so big I’m hoping I can’t make too many big mistakes, having never tried to carve polystyrene before, but I couldn’t resist just popping the pieces in situ to see how it was turning out.



Massive is what struck me!

Jim gave me another two tools to add to my arsenal of sculpting weapons, a whacking great wood saw and a beautiful Japanese rasp – apparently it’s the best tool in the workshop – to be taken care of!


I have not got an aerial view of the Great Bustard to work my width measurements on, all I have is any of Dave Kjaer’s photos and a working knowledge of traditional birdshapes and mechanics.


I sketch out where the front and back measurements take me, and try and put together a reasonable outline, a quite rotund but powerful set of shoulders, gently sweeping arc down to the wingtips, which almost overlap at the rear end.


I use the wood saw to do the big blocks of cutting, but turn to the rasp to smooth and gently shape.


It is a lovely tool to use, with both a rough and smooth side, it’s a work of art in it’s own right, it seems to be made up of hacksaw blades that gently wide in and out to make a close set diamond grid that works beautifully to sculpt my Bustard…


It also covers me, the bench and the floor with lots of polystyrene snow, which also seems to stick to my hands and arms!

All too soon lunch comes and the workshop shuts for an hour – don’t they realise how precious any time an MA student has in a workshop – and I have to down tools and sit about until it re-opens…

It takes such a long time to carve I start to doubt I’m going to get onto the plaster at all this week, let alone the welding for the legs… I think Jim realised I wasn’t going to have time and he has offered to do the legs for me, a bit of a shame when I was looking forward to having a go, but I know what he means when he says, “it would be quicker for me to do it than for me to teach you…”

After lunch I plough on, finishing the initial carve of the body, and manage to get onto carving the head too, this looks particularly nice when ‘finished’. All of these first carves are only to minimise how much I will need to finish when the model is together as it’s going to be slightly unwieldy and I don’t want bits to break off.


When nearly finished on the body one of the sections fully came away from the rest of the layers, proving how unstuck the whole thing was… a little worrying when it was left overnight, but all the way through the carve I have encountered wet glue in places.

Time is running out again and I need to get the tail and head stuck to the body to try and give another overnight for the glue to set, fingers crossed all round I think…


I quickly mark up the tail and roughly using the saw hack off the larger portions, as we glue it to the body I am really concerned about what is going to happen tomorrow, when I get into it I don’t want to be worrying that it’s going to slip apart!

Jim can completely pull the layers apart on the body, so adds some more glue and resticks it whilst we have the chance. He also tells me that I shouldn’t be a worrywart, but I can’t help it, this is going to be part of my show!

Putting it together I am pleased with the shape, it still looks absolutely massive, but I’ve tried my hardest to use any measurements I can get my hands on, and there we have it!



Making my very own Great Bustard #greatbustard

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Today started my week devoted to the sculpture making part of my Masters Installation. I’ve been working on some measurements and have the finished workup ready to go. I have already been donated 5 sheets of polystyrene from a BA student who had finished all of his work and no longer needed the extra sheets he’d bought, but when Jim and I measured up, it struck me that the Bustard was looking absolutely massive and I had nowhere near enough poly to make the barrel chest of the bird. So I dashed off to B&Q to buy another 4 sheets, which I then dropped back at College, before going back home and revisiting my original measurements. Good job I did as I had the Bustard 1.2metres at it’s tallest when it’s only 105cm! The same information also had the body length at 115cm, but this was way too long. So with my new designs I returned into college for an afternoon of polystyrene sawing! BustardScupt_measurements-04First I marked out the biggest shape, that being the oval of the body which would be the biggest section, I would need to add on the head and the tail to fit in the pieces of poly I was working on…


In hindsight, maybe I should have put as much as possible onto the sheet, ie, moved the shape to the bottom to have more neck and tail and just finish with small top sections, but it’s cut now…


This is the first one cut, not too bad, the bread knife gives quite a good edge, makes it easy to follow the outline although it’s always going to be a bit messy with polystyrene!

So I just need to make 8 of those…

Cutting the polystyrene is quite hard work for my little arm and at one point I wasn’t quite sure I’d be able to get through 8 sheets, let alone all the other bits as well… It does take a considerable amount of time to cut the first 4, but then I find a little work groove and by the end I’m finishing them in 10 minutes a sheet.

So I have my 8 body sections and from the left over pieces of sheet I need to make best use of size to fit the tail and the head within the remaining poly.

A little bit of maths later and I’m marking out the head outline.


I only need 4 sheets of this as the head/neck isn’t as wide as the body (about half – 20cm max)

I’m racing against time to get these 4 cut out as I need to get them glued before they close the workshop…


Fortunately Jim helps me sandwich all the layers together and glues them with some strong wood glue and a few cocktail sticks for extra holding whilst they set.


8 bodies, 4 heads, done.


Jim checks out the right kind of rasp on a side section, so that I can immediately start when I get in tomorrow… But first I’ll need to cut 6 tail sections and get them gluing and then I can start sculpting.


It really is going to be massive, the sculpture will stand just over a metre tall and is nearly a metre in length at it’s widest point (crop to tail), I can’t wait to get the sections together, this will (hopefully) be impressive… and it gives me a nice big surface to project onto 🙂


Great Bustard on the move!

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A chance to get into the animation studios and see my artwork on the move.


I lay out the keyframes in sequence, I am so pleased with how they look, but slightly worried by the size of them and the size of the animation rostrum!

wpid-dsc_0029.jpgIf you look at the mac screen in the image above you can see that the artwork is slightly too big for the safe areas of the video capture for the Dragon animation software.

And of course, rookie error, if this is the bird at it’s most up stretched stroke, there is no room at all for the down stretch…

To make this work I will need to make the work smaller, which I’m not really happy about as it’s tricky enough the size it is working with real feathers. I will need to think carefully and plan this.

wpid-dsc_0028.jpgTalking to Sam – the animation technician – if I take it out of the Dragon software that may not be an issue as I can position the images where I want, but will need to check the technical side of that and make sure I can output to the appropriate file type if I do it my own way, also there’s more scope for incorrect positioning if I do it by eye.wpid-dsc_0027.jpg

However I go through the motions with what I have, to see what happens…

It’s looking lovely actually, obviously too fast as I have only got 6 frames, but an encouraging first test. All of the detail is there, it loses nothing, the trails of the dust look good and add texture and movement, just as I wanted it too, so from here I just need to create the full animation cycle frames, plus the take-off, all of which I don’t have reference material for, but should be able to work it out by careful study, totalling approximately 30 frames.

Still with technical issues on my mind,  a quick test using the raw images from the rostrum camera will be in order, then I can decide whether I have to work smaller to fit under the animation software limits, or if I can sort it independently of that, I can work at the size I’m happy too.

I choose my favourite paper stock and get ready for the hard work to begin.




Last 3 test pieces

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Just finishing the last 3 test pieces so I can make a definitive paper choice.

With each of them I feel that my confidence in mark making grows.


The little philips projector is doing a fine job, the spread of the projection itself is quite wide, so I am using a central portion and using my previous drawing to line up the body of the Bustard for registration.


The little grater works well as I am able to be flexible with colours and only grate as much as is needed, but I need to make sure I pick up any feathers as I am going through them quite quickly.


I have discovered, however, that I can use a wider feather to create the very slim ‘fingertip’ feathers of the Bustard by using just the side round to the top and then moving the feather slightly to make a thinner profile.. This is a bit problematic as obviously when I move the feather over, the conte dust sticks to the underside and moves over too, sometimes making marks where they shouldn’t be, so I am keeping a keen look out for thinner feathers!

wpid-dsc_0398.jpgNumber 4 in the keyframes.



Number 5





Number 6




So all the keyframes are done and the technique is coming on well, the use of colour has developed and is achieving a better look than in the earlier tests. I can’t wait to see it moving…



Great Bustards in the wild

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Over the last few days I travelled down to Salisbury Plain to visit the Great Bustard re-introduction site…

When I arrived it looked like this…


So I didn’t hold out much hope for actually seeing the Bustards and after a 200 mile journey down to Salisbury was feeling a little deflated.

Lynne from the Great Bustard Group (GBG) turned up in theland rover and we waited for a while for the last two visitors.

wpid-wp-1399106508274.jpegThe view from the landy as we approached the hide.

Off in the distance I could see a small group of birds, which did turn out to be the Bustards.

Lynne told us that there were only 13 Great Bustards at the moment and half of them – the females – were hopefully off sitting on nests, so the small group of males were the only birds to be seen.
The hide is 300 metres from the release pen area which the birds enjoy coming back to and a particular clump of grass seemed to be their favourite spot.
We could see 5 young males and another younger male off to the left, besides the 2 decoy birds that the GBG use to tell the Bustards that this is a safe area to be. They are fenced in here, although they can fly free anywhere on Salisbury Plain and have been known to be found in France.

As we sat in the small hide, the cows who shared the same field obviously use the hide as a bit of a toy and proceeded to push shove, scratch and eat the wood, especially on the corners, so it made it very tricky to record any useful sound, but I did get sense of the space and what the surroundings should sound like, so below find my best 3 minutes, but please excuse the snorting, rubbing, scratching and general cow noises…

So, it’s an open space with summery background birdsong, the odd crow, but a real sense of a wide open green area.
We only had an hour in the hide and it went all too quickly, but off we went to their little shop and headquarters just back from the release pen.
In here they had the most fantastic stuffed Great Bustard, which Lynne was kind enough to turn round for me to get a good photo up close.

wpid-wp-1399124290543.jpegThe little shop was amazing and stuffed full of stuffed Great Bustards and clothing, and you could even buy Great Bustard beer!

I must say a big thankyou to Lynne, who helped me sort out the visit and has been more than helpful in any contact I’ve had with the group, and has amazing landrover driving skills as we squirmed and slid through the muddy bottom gates!

backwards and forwards

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Spent most of today going backwards and forwards, from tutorial to live file, from image to UV, even from college to home and I feel as though I have got absolutely nowhere. Although I did have a breakthrough with regards to my deformation of shapes with animation. Again went back and looked through all of the relevant tutorials and found one where good ‘ole George Maestri (lynda.com) painted his weights using a colour ramp, not just the black and white that I had been using. Quickly found the tickbox in my live project and ‘hey presto’ that’s where it’s all being affected from. Not only was the top of the leg deforming the front of the chest, but the long neck which goes down inside the body shape was distorting as well.



this screengrab shows how the colour ramp lit up the areas which had me scratching my head for most of the previous day.

It felt good to get this problem sorted and I merrily painted away those nasty blue deformities!

Unfortunately the rest of the day was a total bungle, I wanted to bring this ready to animate model onto my home machine as it has 2013 Maya installed and the Collada exporter needed for processing into the Aurasma stage is within the plug-ins already. I obviously can’t install the plugin on a college computer as I don’t have admin rights. But on my home machine I couldn’t get the file to load up, now I had spoken to resident tech expert Leigh, one of the technicians at NUA about how to assure I wouldn’t have any problems when I got home and thought I had covered all of the bases, but it was not to be. I tried importing, I tried opening, I tried turning my machine on and off, in case of a bug, but nothing worked… I couldn’t continue with the rest of my planned day, it was already 2pm what to do…?

Obviously the swear box got filled up at this point, and the chocolate tin raided and my machine was shut down in disgust…

After a cup of coffee, I no choice but to go back into college and again bother Leigh with this silly problem. Fortunately he was still in and free to go through with me on the college machine exactly how the file hierarchy works and where to open it from –  by the way never ever import (tip from the top) – but to my annoyance what he showed me meant I should have been able to open it at home… But, but, I decided to make a new project folder and hope that this would aid me in my efforts to open the right damn file when I got back. Leigh said I was doing really well, which is very kind of him seeing as I have done nothing but bug him for the last two weeks, but not being able to open a file is just unheard of for me… Back home I went.

I can’t open the file… I couldn’t open this cottonpickinhotename file… aargh, I’m going to give this up, it’s now 4pm and I haven’t achieved anything, I wanted to do so much today, I wanted the animation nailed. But I’m stuck not being able to load a file….

Right, back to the old days, associate the file with maya – which I really shouldn’t have to do – all of the tests files/models I’ve done solely on my home machine show up as a lovely maya file, but none of the ones from college, I can see them but I cannot open them.

Success…. sigh of relief, quickly save scene as onto my machine.

right at last onto the animation, god this is hard.

I had rigged up some IK rigs for the leg and proceeded to try and animate with them, but it seems so fiddly, if I want to animate the body – because it’s currently a seperate shape – I have animate it by itself and set it’s own keyframe, if I click off of the body I can’t see where the keyframes are, try the dopesheet says George, um, ok don’t understand that. Move something accidentally – now I’ve shifted my whole model… oh god, this is a horrible nightmare of animation… ok, ok, lets just do a few simple moves, so delete everything, start again and just do a few frames, then test that through Aurasma, see if I sweat blood and tears over the animation, if it will even work. I’ve had a few weird things turn up getting the static model into Aurasma.

Great, Maya won’t even export the .dae file I need, keeps coming up with errors about nodes and maybe I might want to update my .dae plugin.. ok I dutifully update it, go to export and same error message.. that was worth my while then, then the error log has a problem with some of my objects, I look in the outliner and it is referring to my ik joints…. so I delete them, it buggers up my animation, so I patch up a few keyframes and try again… no, it cannot find my bind poses now….this time it suggests maybe I might want to bake my animation…. I do everything I can. At the end my Great Bustard is just gliding along the floor as I’ve removed every single thing I possible can and this time maya exports it….

I put it with the thumbnail image (256×256 .png), convert to a .tar file using 7z and upload it to the Aurasma studio, it’s 9pm at night and I have had a rubbish day, please Aurasma accept my model.. I watch the whirly spiral of time whizzing round… and then the dreaded no entry sign pops up, cannot build model, random error code, please contact Aurasma…

I go back to maya, bake the animation, again delete the history, remove the lights, delete anything extraneous in the outliner window (that is a tip from me to keep your work streamlined – look in the outliner!) and re submit it to Aurasma…

Could not validate augmentation: Not enough key frames in animation

ok I give in

I shut down and pledge to start again with the static model that has nothing on it and nothing in it’s history tomorrow…

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